TORONTO – A state-of-the-art home for Alzheimer’s patients in north Toronto is on the edge of bankruptcy, with many of its beds empty. The Jewish benevolent society B’nai Brith, which opened the home’s doors to the public 18 months ago, has struggled to fill the 44 rooms and pay the bills despite $5.4-million in funding from the federal government.
Now the four-storey retirement home is under insolvency protection and up for sale, according to a report in the Toronto Star. Court documents prepared by the home’s owner warn that if a solution is not found it would “jeopardize” the care of the handful of residents now living in the Alzheimer Centre of Excellence.
The centre owes $11 million to creditors, including a bank, a construction company and firms that leased televisions, washing machines, DVD players, Wii games and a karaoke machine, all part of the care package that families pay $7,500 a month to support.
“Hopefully, someone else will come in and take the home over, and take it to the next level,” said new B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn (pictured) in an interview with the Star. He and others involved in the process stressed that the residents of the home are the priority in this process.
Last fall, Mostyn replaced Frank Dimant, who ran B’nai Brith for 36 years and came up with the plan for the home. Dimant said it took too long to build and he mistakenly kept a sign up saying “opening soon,” which led to a loss of confidence in the community as construction dragged on. Those funding the project became concerned.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada says that in 2011, the most recent figures on its website, 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Researchers predict that will rise to 1.4 million by 2031.
Dimant said he spotted this trend years ago and he envisioned a “beautiful modern facility.” B’nai Brith, known for community lodges, social housing, sports programs and its work combating anti-semitism, began designing the project in 2002.
Just before it opened in 2013, B’nai Brith issued a release promising to “offer new hope to families afflicted by the cruelty of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“We understand you only want what’s best for your loved one. And we truly offer the most caring approach to living with Alzheimer’s. By offering cutting-edge programs. By collaborating on therapies at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research. And by providing the highest quality of personal, loving care that makes the difference between living with the disease, and living.” The home boasts beautiful gardens, well-appointed private rooms, and round-the-clock care.
“If you build it, they will come,” said Dimant, acknowledging more should have been done to market the home before it opened.
The other problems? Officials at B’nai Brith say the monthly charge – $7,500 – was too high. Then there were issues with the home. For example, none of the washrooms are wheelchair accessible. All residents must be able bodied, something that in hindsight was a mistake, officials say.
The home opened in December 2013 with four residents. During Dimant’s time it rose to 17. Recently, it has reached 20 residents. There are more staff than residents at the home, with 12 full-time staff and 20 part-timers.
Insolvency documents prepared by the home show that in February, the home wrote to the Bank of Nova Scotia to say it would be out of cash within two months and could not continue loan payments. Between then and now, the bank worked with the home (and then the insolvency trustee) to come up with a plan to sell the home.
The home cost about $16 million to build and outfit. There were numerous work stoppages, cost overruns, and some legal action regarding unpaid contractor bills over the lengthy construction process. A selling price has not been set for the home.